A gaggle of architects, QSs and construction managers are to travel to China on a trade mission this month, and they gathered in London last week for a pre-departure briefing. At the meeting, John Davie, a management consultant and experienced China hand, made an impassioned plea for all involved to suppress their natural self-deprecating British humour when trying to promote British expertise to the Chinese.
He recalled another recent visit to the Middle Kingdom when months of painstaking relationship-building was ruined by a witty account of the Railtrack fiasco. The upcoming trip is focusing on the 2008 Olympics, so it's best not to mention Wembley, Picketts Lock, the Millennium Dome, Laing, ITV Digital and everything else that goes wrong between now and arrival in Beijing.
Counsel of despair
Waiting for Wembley to be built is like waiting for a British team to win the World Cup. Despite the bumbling administrative chaos surrounding the redevelopment, the project team has doggedly stuck to the party line. Everything, they say, will turn out just fine. That said, one was close to cracking last week. "Let's give Birmingham £300m and let them get on with it," he sighed.
Us vs US
Many members of the Association of Consultant Architects were expecting a pat on the head from RIBA president Paul Hyett when he made the speech at their annual dinner recently. What they got was a must-try-harder lecture.
Architects were becoming marginalised by new bulk-purchase forms of procurement such as PFI, partnering and framework agreements, Hyett told them. The NHS required 100 new hospitals costing up to £350m each, and these could only be tackled by large firms, often from the USA. Hyett clinched his argument with a calculation. There were 300 US architects in London earning on average £30,000 each, he said, and they command £540m of British construction work every year. "Our task is to reshape this profession of ours," he concluded. Easier said than done, when 65% of architects work in practices of three people or fewer …
The kink and I
I recommend a viewing of Ken's new palace, as featured in the seven pages following mine. While some may question the exterior of the GLA headquarters, the interior is rather striking, particularly when viewed from the main debating chamber. During a recent look around, however, one of my colleagues did notice a small glitch. The first floor staircase starts smoothly, and then kinks mysteriously. Perhaps the price of completing the job on time and to budget?
Rough on Ryder
May I send my apologies to the architects at Ryder? The practice had kindly agreed to fly my colleague up to a cocktail party in Newcastle to celebrate the launch of its new offices, the impressively named Generator Studios. What's more, they'd splashed out on a hotel and chauffeur – only for the unfortunate hack to miss his flight. He claims he was delayed on his way to Heathrow because London Underground had clogged up its system with too many trains. Trains on the line? Well, as excuses go, it at least has the merit of being different …
This same colleague did, however, manage to make it to Burnley. Attempting to mix in with the locals, the hack had a swift pint of mild in a nearby tavern. As he was wearing a Don Johnson cream suit popular in 1986, however, he was immediately confronted by a local gentleman who wanted to know what he was doing in the town. "I'm writing an article to do with the BNP," he replied. Unfortunately, an over-indulgence in the Thwaites had caused his new friend to interpret this as "I am a Don Johnson fan and activist for the BNP", because at this point he asked the journo to step outside for a damn sound thrashing.
Three rings and you're out
Word reaches me that directors at Bluestone, the recently renamed regional contracting arm of Morgan Sindall, have come up with a strict punishment for that least forgivable of sins – leaving your mobile on during meeting.
Culprits whose contraption rings, pings, blips or yodels during strategy sessions are receiving fines of £50.
Respect to Tony Blackler, partner at Macfarlanes and regular contributor to Building's legal pages. News reaches me that, despite being laid up with a bad back, he is ploughing through the building contracts horizontally. "You can't stop the man," remarks one of his colleagues.